Jul 09, 2012

Veteran Louisiana Educators to Guide Adoption of New Standards

BATON ROUGE, La. - State Superintendent of Education John White announced today a new district support leadership team that will work directly with school districts and provide support in the transition to the new Compass evaluation system and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Compass and the Common Core are the state’s top instructional priorities and are critical components of Louisiana Believes, the state’s comprehensive plan to empower educators and parents to make the best choices for children.

"We are changing the way we work with districts through tailored support rather than top-down programs," said White. "We can work better and more efficiently by consolidating multiple offices into teams that customize support for school districts."

The Department of Education reduced 58 central positions this year, saving $8.5 million.

The new network structure will serve as the primary support vehicle for districts as they implement new evaluation systems and standards. School districts will fall into one of five networks statewide that will assist in translating educational priorities into outcomes for students. Networks will be organized partially by geography, size, and existing relationships. The Department solicited district input on the organization of districts into networks. After thoughtful district feedback, network groupings were reorganized and finalized today.

Each network will be supported by a team of instructional specialists who will be managed by a leader with education experience. These leaders will assess the unique needs and approaches of their districts and build upon those strengths to support implementation of instructional reforms. The network leaders announced today are Warren Drake, Superintendent of the Zachary Community School District; Kerry Laster, Deputy Superintendent of Literacy and former Superintendent for Concordia Parish; Gayle Sloan, District Support Officer in the Department of Education’s Innovation Office and former Superintendent for St. Tammany Parish; Melissa Stilley, Chief Academic Officer for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, and Francis Touchet, Principal of Erath High School. The Department has paired each network leader with a network, and these pairings are available on a final network map.

Networks will work closely with the Student Programs Division, which houses various federal and state programs aimed at supporting disadvantaged students, overseen by Stephen Osborn. The Student Programs Division will work directly with networks to improve communication and ensure that compliance efforts aimed at serving special student populations are aligned with instructional priorities.

"We must have the best leaders for our children and for our educators. I’m proud to say we have found them," said White. "These educators were in the trenches working alongside teachers. They know what tools are needed to help our teachers and students succeed."

Network leaders and teams will facilitate regular meetings with school districts to discuss what is working in classrooms statewide and what processes need further refinement. Network staff will work side by side with district and school level administrators to regularly observe practices at the school level, fostering alignment on quality instructional practices and effective feedback. Their work will include analyzing student and teacher data on which to base feedback and recommendations; providing technical assistance in developing evaluation systems and modifying curriculum; and assisting districts in braiding funds to better support transition to new evaluation systems and the Common Core.

While the implementation of Compass and Common Core will be led by each individual school district to meet local needs, a set of guiding practices developed by the Department in consultation with educators will provide a foundation that districts can use to achieve a successful, integrated implementation of these instructional priorities. These practices, which are being referred to as the core elements, include goal setting, assessment and content, feedback, collaboration, and the identification of teacher leaders. The new network structure will be focused on reinforcing these practices and supporting districts, as well as fostering district-level collaboration around key implementation issues relevant to the core elements.

About the Network Leadership Team:

Warren Drake, Superintendent of the Zachary Community School District
Warren Drake led the Zachary Community School District from 2002 to 2012, overseeing the startup of one of the first independent school districts in the state. Under Drake’s tenure, the student population in Zachary burgeoned from 2,500 to more than 5,300 students. Known for strong community support and outstanding facilities, Zachary has been recognized as the top performing school district in the state. In addition, the district is widely regarded as a model of excellence in areas of technology, arts education and athletics. Prior to taking the reins in Zachary, Drake served as principal of Tara High School and Assistant Principal of Broadmoor and Zachary High Schools.

Kerry Laster, Deputy Superintendent of Literacy, Department of Education (former Superintendent for Concordia Parish)
Dr. Kerry Laster served as an Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Education, overseeing literacy activities from birth-grade 12. She has served as a teacher, reading specialist, principal, curriculum coordinator and district superintendent for Concordia Parish. She is the recipient of the Louisiana Principal of the Year, the Louisiana Reading Association’s Principal of the Year, Fulbright Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Louisiana PTA Educator of Distinction, and the U.S. Department of Education/National Association of Elementary Principals’ Excellence in Education Award. Dr. Laster’s bold reform as a principal led to the development of the first year round school in the state, which was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

Gayle Sloan, District Support Officer, Innovation Office, Department of Education (former Superintendent for St. Tammany Parish)
Gayle Sloan has been an educator for more than 40 years, serving as a teacher, school administrator and district official. Sloan joined the Louisiana Department of Educationin 2010 to serve as its first District Support Officer and took the lead in jumpstarting significant reform measures in districts committed to deep levels of education reform. Prior to her position as District Support Officer, she was the superintendent of St.Tammany Parish public schools for more than seven years. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, she led the recovery of her school district, reopening just five weeks after the storm. Sloan was named Louisiana Superintendent of the Year in 2009 and President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents that same year.

Melissa Stilley, Chief Academic Officer, Tangipahoa Parish School System
Melissa Stilley has more than 24 years of experience in the education field and has cultivated her expertise in educational leadership. She served as the chief academic officer of the Tangipahoa Parish School System for the past four years, reporting directly to the superintendent of schools to advise the superintendent in all academic areas. Stilley oversaw four major academic departments, including special education, educational technology, federal programs, and K-12 curriculum and instruction. Her position entailed planning and organizing short term and long term leadership development opportunities for leaders across the district. Stilley is currently pursuing her doctorate, focusing on how district leadership and district conditions impact school principals’ sense of collective efficacy.

Francis Touchet, Principal of Erath High School
Francis Touchet served as principal of Erath High School from 2005 to 2012. Under Touchet’s leadership, Erath High School’s performance scores increased continuously from an SPS of 101 in 2007 to an SPS of 140.8 in 2011, making it the number one public high school (non-selective admissions) in the state. In 2011, he was named the Vermilion Parish High School Principal of the Year. In 2012, he was selected to participate in the Louisiana Department of Education’s first Executive Leadership Academy. Prior to his position as Principal of Erath High School, he was Assistant Principal of Erath High from 2002-2005 and Assistant Principal of Abbeville High School from 1998-2002.

About the Assistant Superintendent of Student Programs:

Stephen Osborn, Assistant Superintendent, Student Programs

Prior to joining the Department of Education, Stephen Osborn served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Capital One - New Beginnings Charter Schools Network, which operates four charter schools in partnership with UNO and Capital One Bank. In this capacity, Osborn oversaw day-to-day school operations and the organization’s finance, grant management, human resources, technology, compliance and development functions. As COO, Osborn implemented a merit based pay system that incentivized effective educators to teach low-performing students. During his tenure with the organization, Osborn also served as Chief Financial Officer and Director of State and Federal Programs. Osborn previously worked as the Compliance Manager for Excellent Education Development, a non-profit company that provides back office support to California’s charter schools. He has also served as a consultant for Benjamin Franklin High School, KIPP (Los Angeles and New Orleans) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.


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